The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - MOVIES - WORDS: NEALA JOHN­SON Ricki and The Flash is in cine­mas now

You play Meryl Streep’s lead gui­tarist in the film Ricki and the Flash. Can you think of a rock ’n’ roll movie you’ve seen that cap­tured the re­al­ity of the life?

I haven’t seen any that I go, ‘Yeah, they re­ally nailed that’. And this isn’t a story about a rock ’n’ roll star, it’s a story about a hu­man be­ing who hap­pens to be a mu­si­cian – and not a very suc­cess­ful one, which is part of the is­sue.

Is it true all the songs the Flash per­form were filmed live?

Yeah, Jonathan Demme wanted us to play live, which is pretty un­heard of. Most films, they record it in the stu­dio or at least do over­dubs then lip-synch. This was played live in the mo­ment. When I heard they weren’t even go­ing to do over­dubs, I started to sweat (laughs).

Be­sides you, who are the other “real” mu­sos in the movie band?

Rick Rosas was Neil Young’s bass player – un­for­tu­nately he died four days af­ter the shoot ended, which freaked us all out. Joe Vi­tale, the drum­mer, played with Crosby Stills and Nash. Bernie Wor­rell was in Talk­ing Heads. And Meryl – I’ve never seen any­body take two months to learn elec­tric guitar, then sing and play and pull it off. It’s ac­tu­ally as­tound­ing. She brought it, for sure.

How did you old pros ini­ti­ate Meryl into the band?

First of all I went, ‘Oh my God, it’s Meryl Streep!’ But the in­tim­i­da­tion of ‘Oh my God, it’s Meryl Streep’ has gotta go out the win­dow as soon as you can throw it be­cause that in­ter­feres with ev­ery­thing. She ini­ti­ated her­self by be­ing very open and not wear­ing ‘Meryl Streep’ on her shoul­der. She would ask ques­tions about, ‘Am I hold­ing this guitar right?’, so it took some of the fear away, like, ‘Meryl’s ask­ing us some­thing for a change!’.

Was au­di­tion­ing for Jonathan “Si­lence of the Lambs” Demme in­tim­i­dat­ing?

The first au­di­tion, this guy sat down next to me and said, ‘I’m a big fan’. I looked at him and said, ‘Oh OK, thanks’. Then some­thing in my head said, ‘Idiot – that’s the di­rec­tor!’ So I went, ‘Oh, Jonathan ...’ He’s such a mu­sic fan. The first movie I ever did was a mu­sic movie called Hard

To Hold, but it was di­rected by a guy who hated rock ’n’ roll, and it shows. With Jonathan, I knew the mu­sic was in good hands.

You’d had hit songs in Aus­tralia, solo and with Zoot, be­fore you moved to Amer­ica in the ’70s. What led you to try act­ing over there?

I thought I could make money as an ac­tor while I was wait­ing for a record deal, hon­estly. Which was pretty stupid be­cause most ac­tors in class were wait­ing ta­bles wait­ing for an act­ing gig! But in­no­cence is a good thing and I ac­tu­ally did start to make some money as a con­tract player for Uni­ver­sal. I’d al­ways thought about it – my brother is an ac­tor in Aus­tralia and it al­ways in­ter­ested me. And it’s been much more en­joy­able than I thought it would be; I thought it would just be some­thing to pay the light bill.

How did it work in the 1980s when you were tour­ing and act­ing at the same time?

I would fly out to play on the week­ends, then fly back Mon­day morn­ing to work on Gen­eral

Hos­pi­tal. Stupid. I was out of my mind.

What is it about act­ing that gives you a rush?

Writ­ing a song that you feel you’ve nailed, record­ing a per­for­mance you feel is par­tic­u­larly good and com­plet­ing a scene that you feel you got pretty close to – it’s all ex­actly the same rush to me.

What’s your re­ac­tion these days when Jessie’s Girl comes on the ra­dio?

I like to hear it – it’s like see­ing your son in the crowd. The fun­ni­est thing is hear­ing muzak ver­sions of it in the gro­cery store.

We of­ten hear about life on the road caus­ing bands to break up ...

That’s why I’m a solo artist!

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